Saturday, 31 December 2016

Shopping Plans



I was more than surprised when we visited my brother yesterday to receive a gift from him! He works in warehousing for a supermarket and they have recently started stocking jackfruit. So that's something to add to the menu plan and saves us a few bob. 

I share my menu plans quite often so I thought I'd share my shopping list today. We won't be going shopping for a little while but I've written the list anyway as I know we'll need things throughout the month. The shopping list goes hand in hand with the menu plan and the pantry list I write before the month begins. That makes it seem more complex and time consuming than it really is.


It is organised to my mind! Next to each item I make a note of where I'll buy each thing, L for Lancaster, either the tea shop or the health food shop, HB for Home Bargains, S for supermarket etc. Things with hard brackets are things we will almost certainly need so I'll keep some money back for them, but we won't buy them immediately. 

It works for me!

Thursday, 29 December 2016

One Me


On the radio this morning there was much chat about the new thingamy from the public health people that lots of us over 40s are lazy fatties who are storing up health problems for the future. The One You initiative has launched to get lazy creatures* such as myself up and at 'em.

Seven years ago I loved exercise and did it almost everyday, then we put our house on the market and we packed away our large pieces of exercise equipment for viewings and I just got out of the habit, and I've never got back into it. So although I'm not overweight I certainly am not as active as I could or should be. A friend I know through fitness things took the One You test and she was very annoyed to have it suggest she doesn't do enough exercise and she could consider Couch to 5k. Considering she runs multiple times a week and is currently training for a marathon I can see why she was unimpressed! On the other hand, all I do is walk about and carry heavy things round the charity shop I was told I was doing well. Make of that what you will! 

So we went for a walk today, walking is something I can easily do, I like doing and is sustainable for me, going to a class or to the gym just isn't my thing at all. We had a nice walk along the beach to Lytham, via Fairhaven Lake. I patted four dogs - a spaniel, a lab, something that may have been a cockerpoo and a bulldog - dogs are the main lure of beach walking.



The marshy part was very frosty, but the sun was gorgeous.



We did stop off at the pub on the way home but it doesn't alter the fact that I made the effort! Hopefully it's the first wander of many in the coming year. 

*I'm only calling myself a lazy creature, not anyone else who may or may not exercise for whatever reason that may be!

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Expedit Exit

I don't know if anyone else is the same, but we have a couple of things that we really would like to get out of the house for one reason or another but they're just so useful that they never get replaced and so they hang around like a bad smell. 

Or in this case a large and fairly unattractive piece of furniture. Yes, it matches the kitchen and that's pretty ugly too!


First thing this morning, this classic Ikea item made the dangerous journey out of Dan's dressing room, down the stairs and into the garage. We've had it for many years and it is very useful, for years it kept our books and vinyl records off the floor, but it had to go. We have nothing to put the books on now so they're living in the wardrobe in the spare bedroom for the time being. We're not going shopping for a new bookcase, something will turn up eventually.

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Shepherdess Pie

Someone requested the recipe for Shepherdess Pie yesterday so here it is. I have tweaked the recipe over the years but the original came from Weight Watchers Vegetarian Cooking, a book I've had for many many years. My main tweaks are to use sage instead of thyme and a teaspoon of yeast extract instead of brown sauce, plus I vary the vegetables to use whatever is already in the fridge.

Serves 4

Ingredients

2 tbsp oil
1 leek, finely chopped
1 carrot diced,
120g mushrooms, chopped
60g each green and red lentils
210g tin chopped tomatoes
450ml water
bayleaf
1/2 tsp thyme
1 1/2 tbsp brown sauce
210g baked beans
1 clove garlic, crushed
big pile of mash

Method

Fry the veg in the oil for around 10 minutes, covered, until soft. Add the lentils, herbs, tomatoes and water, bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer, partally covered, for 30 minutes until the mixture is thick. Stir in the beans and brown sauce, cook for another 5 minutes, 

In the meantime make the mash.

Remove the bayleaf and transfer the lentil mixture into a oven dish, top with the mash and put into the oven for 15-20 minutes at 200C.  

Monday, 26 December 2016

Lots of Leftovers



We don't really have any leftovers to deal with, we planned leftovers so we could take a nice nut roast sandwich to the football this afternoon, but that's all. The pantry is still well stocked so today has been menu plan day, it's pretty simple and basic but I fancy a nice easy start to the new year with lots of planned leftovers for that cook once-eat twice happiness. 

1. use-it-up one pot (rice)
2. dhal w. flatbread and dips, houmous etc
3. shepherdess pie
4. l/o
5. haggis
6. haggis stuffed mushrooms
7. out
8. out

9. aduki bean casserole
10 stirfry or l/o
11 lentil bol
12 jacket potatoes w. l/o bol
13 curry of some kind
14 bean burgers (football 3)
15 chestnut pie

16 enchiladas
17 l/o
18 roast veg pasta
19 jollof rice w. roast tofu
20 everyday pad thai
21 smoky Incan stew
22 nut roast

23 porotos granados
24 l/o
25 garlic lentil and butterbean stew w. v-pud
26 l/o
27 curry
28 pizza
29 roast
30 pepper stuffed w nut roast
31 beans on toast (football 7.45)

As for today, it's trifle for breakfast.



Sunday, 25 December 2016

Stuffed!

Yesterday I stuck on the boxset of Chuck season 2 (hey, I've never claimed to be a cool kid) and got on with making Dan's big cushion. How it looks it how he wanted it, apparently it's ideal for propping yourself up when doing important Raspberry Pi business. 

It is been squidged into perfect shape already, after some serious wriggling.


He chose the fabric and the placement, I just brought it all together. 


I have a huge piece of this chevron (or as Dan pointed out "mountain path" fabric, an Abakhan bargain) it was the only fabric I had that was big enough to use as a single piece.


In one week the new season of Twin Peaks will be this year so hopefully now I've made things for everyone else and decorating the house I can make that for me and be somewhere close to finishing before the show does!

Friday, 23 December 2016

The Same Only Bigger

Yesterday we went to Lancaster to have coffee at Atkinsons and to just have a wander around. In one shop Dan spotted a mountain cushion and decided he'd quite like one and asked me if I'd make one. Of course I agreed so we visited the fabric shop to choose some fabrics. 



I'd received some gift money so I treated myself to a new cutting mat too, it's a whopper compared to my current one, also double sided with metric and imperial measurements. It doesn't get more exciting than that, well other than when the breeze got up a little and it started acting like a sail as I walked back to the car!

By the time we got home Dan decided that the cushions at the shop were far too small for his needs so he gave me his preferred dimensions. This is what we now have


It's a metre tall. But then again I suppose it is a snow topped mountain!

The visit to see my parents today is off, due to the weather, stay safe and warm everyone. 

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Desperate Measures

The bloke I work with on a Tuesday has been telling me for weeks he's going to give me a Christmas present, so I have been trying to think of something to buy for him and I have had no ideas as I don't really know all that much about his likes a dislikes other than playing FIFA, eating steak and well that's about it. I am also very low in the budget department so I got the sewing machine out. I rarely use the sewing machine as I don't get any pleasure from it at all, but it is at least a quick way to make something. I know his flat is mainly black and white so I made this


It looks pretty nice on my chair I think.


As it was a rush job I can't claim it's made to the highest standard, but it is made and wrapped so we shall see. At least if he hates it and chucks it away it hasn't cost me anything other than half an hour of my time. I do fancy one for myself though. 

Monday, 19 December 2016

Beware! Falling Objects

any excuse for a rabbit picture
I mentioned last week that the window in the living room fell out, last night thing number two fell, it was worse than the window. The string on the back of one of our Shirley Craven panels snapped, thankfully a combination of the rabbit pen and radiator halted the drop and the fabric is unharmed. We took the other one down as a precaution. 


The bare wall looked very depressing so to amuse ourselves we replaced the missing art work with some other items from around the place. I can't share the whole thing as one of the pictures is an enormous picture of my niece as a baby, smiling down on us like that sun baby did on Teletubbies, I'm sure she would be unimpressed to appear here. My favourite of the four pictures is this 


We call this delight Benevolent Swan, it was the only decorative item in the house when we moved in, it hung over the place where our bed now is. For the past six years Dan and I have been involved in a battle over it, he wanted to chuck it, I wanted to keep it, so it has hung next to the strimmer in the garage for all that time. Funnily enough. he likes it now!

Although I am still officially resting I can't cope with another day of just sitting, so clothes are washing, dry laundry has been put away and there is veg roasting


I'm not reinventing the wheel today, just roasting squash for soup and pasties, peppers for a tagine type thing, sweet potato for curry, onions and carrots for chestnut pie, some for this week and some for the freezer so we don't spend half Dan's holiday in the kitchen, easy and simple. 

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Busy Doing Nothing


Thankfully my obligations to the festive period have been fulfilled until Sunday. Dan is happy with the decorations which is the main thing. Other things have been purchased and we just need to dish them out and put up with the associated sitting in a stuffy room being overly formal for a few hours. 

I have been told to rest in a vague attempt to recover from the lurgy, so other than a brief trip to Lytham to giggle at the delusions of grandeur I have been at home being looked after and watching ski jumping. The two most exciting things to have happened this week are to have cut some strips for the Super Furry quilt and to have tried out a new shower gel. Blimey, it really is all go. 



I usually buy Weleda Sea Buckthorn body wash, £7.95 for 200ml, I love it but as funds did not allow for it this time round I went to the other end of the spectrum and bought some stuff from Superdrug, 89p for 250ml or two for £1.20. I bought two thinking that if all else failed I could take the second bottle to the shop as a tombola prize. 




It's really, really nice. I was concerned it would dry my skin out but that's not happened at all, the bubbles are light and lovely and there's no dry or otherwise horrid feeling afterwards at all. In fact three people have told me this week that I smell nice, although it was at the charity shop and being the most fragrant thing there isn't difficult a lot of the time! Dan also loves it, he keeps sniffing me. I think that means this is going to be a long term switch! I know some people will think I'm comparing apples with oranges comparing these products but there you go. 

Oh, three exciting things! My mum sent me some money for the festivities and I used it to buy some tickets to see The Jesus and Mary Chain, one of my favourite bands when I was in my late teens, it's not for yonks so it gives me another thing to look forward to. Time for a nap now I think. 


Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Tree Trimmings



I finally picked everything up and stuck it to the fireplace!

After only two years I finally finished off the fabric tree, it was a bit of a rush job I admit, but it's done for now at least. I first mentioned the fabric tree here, we didn't decorate last year so I didn't have to think about the bare trunk until this week. 

The trunk of the tree is the tube from inside a piece of lino so it was at least the right colour, but things just looked a bit unfinished, which was fine when the tree lived behind the sofa but this year it's in the dining area. Saying I finished the tree is a very grand description for what actually happened which was wrapped some fabric round it, but what are blogs for if not for florid language?


For those who wish to see the full, ridiculous item


Obviously, this isn't where it lives, but Dan is working from home so is sat at the table, not that I'd ever describe that as being in the way!


Maybe it needs a few more bells, and something for on the top.


It's very nice to cuddle. 

Monday, 12 December 2016

Watch The Birdie!


Phew, it's done, I think my eyes are about to fall out! I added a few beads and stars instead of french knots, just to put my own little stamp on it. Now it's bubblewrapped and ready to go!


I'm now on a crafting holiday!

Sunday, 11 December 2016

That One Tricky Gift

I'm not in the habit of saying "I told you so" but I knew for a fact it was a massive mistake to not buy a gift for our friends overseas. They always always send something fabulous, but when Dan said he wasn't buying anything I protested then shut up. 

We had a splendid day yesterday in Lancaster then at the Burnley match, when we returned home there was a card to collect a parcel. Dan assumed it was something he'd ordered for someone, but on closer inspection this morning the parcel is to both of us. Surprise surprise. 

We are out of budget, out of ideas and very short on time...

Luckily for us I have this rather crumpled and unfinished bit of stitchery to finish and offer up as part of the parcel 


I did buy it to send to this friend but I disliked doing it so much it ended up in the sideboard. I know she'll like it and sewing is not something she does herself. 

Luckily for me I had saved up for a little treat when we went to Lancaster, so I have something to enjoy when I have a break from sewing


Christmas coffee from Atkinsons and a cherry and berry flavoured Round Up (vegan Wagon Wheel). Better get on with it. 

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Eeeek

I opened the window in the living room this morning to chuck some food out for the birds and the window fell out! The whole thing, not just the glass. Eeeeeek. Dan shoved it from the outside as I held it inside and it popped back into place. So we've secured it. The whatever it's called that holds the window in place when it's open has rusted away so when I opened it the main latch thingamy that holds the window in place couldn't take the weight.

I was not expecting that. 

Dan is very pleased with the winter decorations now so it was worth the minor amount of fussing. As promised here is the link to the post about how I made the fabric trees. Yesterday I ventured out of the house to the charity shop and stopped off at the fabric shop to choose the first fabrics for the Super Furry quilt. I am now exceptionally excited about it. 

Monday, 5 December 2016

I Tried

Last night Dan very politely requested that we have a few winter themed decorations up in the house. Of course I agreed because the axis of the Earth doesn't go straight through me. So i made a start today. 

Unfortunately I am not very well at the moment so I am currently sitting with a cup of tea, watching as the decorations fall over and onto the floor. Whatever stays up can stay, I'll pick everything else up eventually, or a rabbit will chew it. Something will happen any way. 


Oh dear.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

International Language of Sewing


Yesterday we had a very long day out to Llandudno to see Super Furry Animals at Venue Cymru. We always try to go to a gig or show in December, this one came nice and early in the month. Last year we ventured out on the evening of Storm Desmond - the sea was angry that day my friends.

It was a gorgeous day so we had a stroll on the prom, did a small amount of Christmas shopping, visited the art gallery, watched the lovely Christmas parade, complete with donkeys, played on the 2p slot machines in the arcade and had a falafel kebab at Barnacles!


A first for me at the gig was to be sniffed by a drugs dog! On these occasions I'm always slightly concerned that the dog may be excited that I smell of rabbits but all was well!



I don't usually buy merch at gigs but there was an SFA tea towel. Earlier that day Dan had requested a small quilt for him to use in bed. He is a cold boy and often has an extra cover but they can tend to drag off the bed or whatever so he wants one with no overhang, if you see what I mean. The tea towel gave me an idea. The man on the stall said "you're not going to dry the dishes with that are you" so I assured him I was not and was going to make a quilt from it. "Awww, that's a lovely idea, I've never heard that before" he replied, and off I went to enjoy the show.


Saturday, 3 December 2016

New Neighbours

Yesterday our very nice neighbour moved out and someone else moved in. 

It has got off to a bit of a shaky start as they parked across our drive so Dan couldn't fit the car in. They kindly offered to move their vehicle if we wanted them to. The mother of the people moving in joked "we're not off to a very good start with you are we?" 

I'm so glad Dan is a nice person, even after a bad day at work!

Friday, 2 December 2016

Point Of View

The theme of the last month or so has been changing my focus. It's so easy to get into a routine where everything I read, hear or do just serves to reinforce what I already think so I've been making changes and it's been fantastic. 

I've changed the way I consume news and it has been a breath of fresh air, it's given me a new perspective on things and changed my focus, it makes the world seem depressing/inspiring in a whole new way!

It was brought home to me again when we went to the talk at Edge Hill University the other evening, so many of the questions from academics came from a very narrow perspective and the speaker said a number of times that it was important to get out of our echo chamber and see how other people see things. He used Brexit as a great example, how many people do you hear saying they didn't know anyone who would vote to leave, but here we are? We have a view of the world but it doesn't mean it's true*. I agree with him, often when you speak with someone from inside something, in this case the arts, it's impossible for them to imagine life without the influence of that thing, it's so fundamental. 

When I was interested in art college I wouldn't have been able to go were it not for one of my teachers giving me the money to get to the interviews, or buy my portfolio and most of my supplies - not that my parents didn't care but it just wasn't something we could spend that huge amount of money on. When you've moved past that point it's hard to remember those basic things, when the belief system you move into is that anything is possible as long as you can imagine it to be so. It's hard to bridge the gap between aspiration and practicality sometimes (has anyone ever been on a diet?).

Darren Henley said that if we don't think differently then we won't innovate, sounds so obvious but it's easy to stay in a routine that works, and to fool ourselves into thinking we're making changes when they're really just the same thing in a very slightly different package. So whether it's a risk, break, change, holiday, fresh start, sea change, or just asking what's the point of this? looking at things in a different way can be amazing. 


*I'm a nihilist so I don't really think anything is true, but you know what I mean. 

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Hungry Girl, Lazy Girl

Dan was in London yesterday, and he was very fortunate to get on a train home amid massive disruption at rush hour. I was frozen by the time I got home from the charity shop (yes, I'm still there, I just don't mention it as much as I used to), the only heating in the shop comes from one of those annoying over the door heaters, and it's broken! So we have a few warm air blowers that heat about 6 inches of air and that's it!

I was also hungry, and tired, ooooh woe is me! So I made the easiest thing I could think of at the time. 



I mixed the last couple of mushrooms, frozen sweet potato and onion, some grilled peppers from a jar, passata and some herbs and spices into the oven for about half an hour, maybe a bit longer. After I took this picture I decided to add a carton of black beans too. For the last few minutes I put some nut roast and a pitta into the oven too. 



Cheap and cheerful, it worked surprisingly well and there's some left for lunch tomorrow. At Dan's suggestion I had also splashed out on a sweet treat, a mince pie from Caffe Nero, I don't like mince pies, but he said I'd like this one and he was right! It wasn't cheap but I enjoyed it very much. I now have to make sure I take a different route to the shop so I'm not tempted to nip in every time!

Tonight will be  quick something or other from the freezer as we're off to Edge Hill University again for a talk by Darren Henley, Chief Exec of The Arts Council about The Arts Dividend, the seven key benefits arts and culture bring to our lives, to society and for the nation on the world stage. I'm looking forward to it. 

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Relief

My festive joy is over. I decided to really try this year, but you know what I just can't face it. I'm not religious, although I love the religious aspects of Christmas, but everything else I just can't be bothered.

We had to delve under the stairs for something the other day so we took out the decorations and all I could see was more junk cluttering up the house. So it's all been put away again until we decide whether to let it go or put ourselves through this charade again next year. 

I'll continue to do the things I need to do out of duty - the family things, but other than that i's just another month. Sounds amazing. I will still be making a trifle. 

Monday, 28 November 2016

The Monday After Black Friday

Dan was supposed to be having an overnight stay in London tonight, but he managed to wriggle out of it so he's only there tomorrow. As there was nothing in his work diary he took today off and went went gift buying for the December festival. It's a bit early but at least we're not using any of our free time up.

What a great time to shop! Not many people around, but Black Friday prices still in evidence. We had our budget and a list of things the children might like from their Mum, there are four smalls to buy for plus one of them has a birthday next month. Some clothes we wanted for the girls were on a 3 for 2 offer, two books I had on my shortlist were half price, as were some colouring pencils. My SIL had suggested a doll for The Wild Thing and the one I chose was 30% off when we got to the till. 

I have also started a wreath for our house and had looked online for embellishments, when I got to the shop they were 25% off and the hanger for the wreath (nothing sticky goes on my doors!) was half price too, so I only paid a pound for it. With all the bits and bobs of savings it means the birthday gift was free compared to the budget so that money can go into savings.

I still wouldn't have got into a fight over any of it though!

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Pantry Check In


Like a lot of people, we spend a lot of time out and about in December so we really need to keep the budget as tight as possible. We've been through the pantry and freezer hoping to find lots of goodies. What we found was very promising so the menu plan and shopping list are done for the month. Edited to add should anyone wish to see my menu plans they are available via the menu plans 2016 tab at the top of the page. 



I've already crossed a couple of things off the master shopping list (before I break it down week by week) as I bought one or two things last night as we really only needed almond milk and flour to see us to the end of November. 

The main ingredients for our meals on December 25th and 26th are safely stashed in the pantry too, no stressing for us hopefully. Dan wants to make some brownies for pudding so we need a few things for that, but chocolate, walnuts, flour, bananas - they're all things we'll use up. Plus I've written absolutely everything needed to make everything we want to make, obviously a fair bit of that will be crossed off when we do our final check before we hit the supermarket.


Dan's domain
We've well and truly changed the look of the pantry after switching supermarkets at the start of this year too, we have the shop own brand products everywhere! It's been good though as we also buy lots more from the health food shop, that's generally more expensive but between switching supermarket, buying certain things from Home Bargains and making more of our own things like bread and houmous our average food budget has gone down by over £20 a month. Not bad considering we didn't scrimp at all. Hopefully that means we'll be able to adapt well if and when the anticipated price rises kick in next year. Damn you Brexit. 

Friday, 25 November 2016

Give Me My Stuff!

At the start of the month we cleared away most of our trinkets and decorative stuff and lived for a while with a bit of breathing space. On Sunday evening Dan revealed he couldn't cope with it anymore and he wanted things back in their place. 

So that's what happened. The pile of books is back.


The bird picture and friends are back, I think Dan missed the picture most of all.


The quilting stuff on the arm of the sofa never went away. Much better. 

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Summer Days

I needed to go to the library today, so I went via the beach., it was just like summer.

It was frosty on the dunes


The sun was bright, it shone in my eyes the whole way. Although I was able to see the team of Nordic walkers, and many people with dogs. I think I was the only person on my own. 


See what I mean? Right in my eyes! I walked out the the remains of the old pier, I had to take off my coat, cardi and scarf by this time, I was boiling!


And I love how tall I looked


The town was gearing up for the festive lights switch on this weekend, the gardens were being primped, decorations were going up in the square and it looks like we're getting a new bit of street art. Very much a work in progress but I'll nip back next week to see the design. We're getting a nice selection of art in the back streets now, a nice change from our traditional feel. 

Monday, 21 November 2016

Reflections On My Glamorous Life

For the past few years we've been making do with a pretty rubbish selection of mirrors at home, in fact I most often use the oven door or my phone screen instead - that probably explains a lot. 

This is my reflection in the bathroom mirror


Dan uses this in his dressing room


And this is the closest to full length we get (but rarely full width)


It doesn't get much lighter than this even when the sun's out, not ideal for make up when you're a very short sighted girl. Impressive I'm sure you'll agree.

Last night I was tasked with finding a new mirror, we've looked at dozens but none have been quite right. I found one on ebay. I have bought two things from that site before and they were both take it or leave it prices, so I'm not very good at the whole bidding thing, nor am I patient when I finally see something I would like. So I clicked Buy It Now (yes, you should all try to sell me things as I'll just pay the suggested price). I did get a bit flustered at checkout as the seller said they wanted cash, I had no idea how to do that so they had PayPal instead (she wasn't best pleased). Anyway, she lived very nearby and wanted us to take it away that night. So we did. 


And now it is pride of place, reflecting the glamour of my bedroom blinds on top of my chest of drawers. Have I spoken about how much I dislike the G Plan stuff we bought earlier this year? It's totally unsuitable for my needs, but Dan loves it and it does look nice in the room, I'll never know how I drew the short straw and got the tiny set of drawers when he has the other, lovely one. Maybe because he paid for it? Who knows. 


There's no mark or branding on the mirror so I know nothing about it, other than I can now see my big daft face whenever I like!